What is biodiversity (and why does it matter)?

Biodiversity is the incredibly vast variety of life on earth. It’s the number of living things and the differences between them across places, species and ecosystems. Good biodiversity can enable ecosystems to better regulate our climate and natural resources. At Iceni, we’re creating a digital platform that enables farmers and land managers to understand and enhance biodiversity.

Have you ever watched a David Attenborough documentary and heard him talk about the loss of habitats and biodiversity? It's usually the last ten minutes of the hour that creates that feeling of hopelessness or impending doom. It seems insurmountable, distant and external. 

But times are changing. Governments, companies and farmers are now looking to take practical steps towards bucking the trend of biodiversity loss. 

Let's dive into what biodiversity is, and how we’re enabling farmers to measure and improve it.

Breaking-down biodiversity

Biodiversity is all living things and the variation between them across places, species and ecosystems. It’s animals, plants, people, and the differences that exist on the global scale down to the genetic level. 

You can call it nature and it’s fundamental for us. The interactions between plants and animals provide the perfect conditions for ecosystems, and by extension humanity, to survive. 

Most people know that we depend on bees like the bumblebee for the pollination of fruits and vegetables. But there are over 250 species of bee in the UK that provide a host of other benefits that are often ignored. Take the Tawny Mining Bee. It loves to pollinate the willow, hawthorn and maple trees, which then store large amounts of carbon as they mature. If we only protected one species of bee then, we would lose out on the benefits that all the others bring. That’s why we need biodiverse habitats across our land.

A tawny mining bee- major pollinators of many tree species in the UK
Tawny mining bees help pollinate trees that store large amounts of carbon (Brian Valentine on Flickr)

Biodiversity provides numerous ecosystem services that enable our society to thrive. Healthy soil can store massive amounts of carbon. Diverse forests can help us protect our towns and cities from flooding. Even a simple hedgerow can make it or break it for farmers looking to protect their fields from extreme weather and provide extra browsing for animals. In short,  we have a lot to gain by protecting and restoring biodiversity. he problem is that we haven’t yet worked out how to do so at scale.

What does good look like?

There is a lot of debate about how to know when there is good biodiversity. It can be evaluated at something as small as the genetic level, or be considered on a larger scale, across whole countries.

At Iceni, we like to focus at the habitat scale, considering connectivity across fields. A complete picture of biodiversity will consider the number of species present, the condition of the habitat, and how connected any particular habitat is to another similar one. For some habitats – like woodlands, for example – specific features like old or dead trees can be vital reservoirs of life that keep the habitat from falling into  poor condition. 

We believe that we should all understand biodiversity, particularly those who are closest to it. That’s why Iceni is building Nature's Super App for farmers and land managers to better understand biodiversity and how they can get paid by enhancing it. Our approach enables you to collect actionable information on biodiversity and get advice on how to improve. 

Screenshots of the Iceni app showing biodiversity and carbon metrics


Biodiversity often feels too big and overwhelming; after all, it’s literally every living thing! But momentum is shifting, and Iceni is enabling agriculture and land-based industries to make sure they can account for the variety of life on earth within their business decisions.

With changing incentives and an increased understanding of the contributions that biodiversity makes to our wider society, now is finally the time to get nature on the balance sheet.